TTIP and globalism


One of the most common objections I hear to Simpol’s call for global governance, is that it will damage national sovereignty. There are numerous arguments that one might put against this, but one issue stands out as absolute proof of the necessity of global democractic governance.

That issue is TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This ‘free trade’ agreement, which is currently being negotiated, has not made nearly as much news as it deserves to. This is probably because it is being discussed behind closed doors. It is also, as with all such agreements, going to be ludicrously long and tediously complex for the average reader. But the one very important detail that has emerged, is that corporations may be able to sue governments for lost profits, in the instance that governments make decision which damage said profits.

So, for a commonly given example, if a government were to ban fracking, multinational corporations can sue them for the profits they think they would have made from that fracking. All of this happens through supra-national ‘arbitration tribunals’. Now all sorts of arguments are being made on both sides as to the relative benefits and costs of TTIP. However, what stands out, for me, is the supra-national arbitration process. This fatally undermines the argument given at the beginning of this piece.

You see, the truth is, that global governance is already happening. Governments know it and are powerless to stop it, or even to apply the brakes. Corporations know it too. The decisions are being made, the rules are being decided and it’s all happening behind closed doors.

The decision we, the people, have to make is not whether or not we want global governance. That ship has sailed. We have only to decide whether or not that global governance will be democratic.

If we do, then we have an awful lot of catching up to do and fast! I can only recommend that readers begin at


Cryptocurrency Can, Will and Must Work.

Crosspost by SIMPOL Supporter and Member Robert Hickey. Originally on his blog at:

I guess that I never thought much about Bitcoin, and cryptocurrency in general, until I moved to a place where credit and debit card use was not as much of a thing in comparison to what I was used to – a place where nearly every transaction required counting out paper and/or coins and trying to get a sum together as close to the price of the thing as possible – and often hoping against hope that the person on the other side of the counter could give me back the difference, or as close as we both found mutually agreeable.

Being a creature of habit, it took me much time, and many awkward moments, for me to learn to carry enough cash and coins to cover whatever stuff I buy. I had always carried paper money; I just rarely seemed to need to use it. It was exponentially more inefficient in this new context to have to deal with all that money nearly all the time.

It also seemed downright strange, and somewhat representative of the times, to know that I could go from checking my online bank  accounts on the other side of the planet, from my phone, to having a problem getting money into the person’s hands standing in front of me. That, if I did not have the proper cash, and they did not have the exact change, that I would have to walk a few blocks to find a machine (and hope that it was refilled recently), pay a bank 2-4 dollars to access my money, and again hope that we could do business.

It reminded me of a moment I had where the juxtaposition of writing an e-mail on a laptop, while sitting next to a wood-stove, came from the ether – how some things have come so far technologically and how others have painfully remained the same. Amazing innovation had come to so many elements of our daily lives – communication, work, travel – but so little seemed to come to the micro-transactions that we conduct so often.

So, in a moment of pseudo-prescience, I bought some Bitcoin (or rather a fraction of a Bitcoin) and traded some of that for some of the alternative cryptocurrencies (Vertcoin and Dogecoin) that I had read about. I have been playing around with them for a bit; seeing where I could use them, where I could store them, where I could trade them. Part of me is doing this just to keep up with the times (I just turned 30 and felt that I must now make an effort to keep up with “the kids these days”) – to not become the neo-luddite of the kind that I was when my friends first started getting their first cell phones and I was a year or two late to that 90’s party (I cringe when I think about myself asking “Why do I need one?”).

But while I, (like most of us – maybe all of us) have some ingrained illogical part of me that loves to hate change, I remembered the things that I felt before I got my first cell phone, and even my first smartphone – that once I got it, I realized how amazingly useful it was. That I should learn to suppress that illogical gut reaction that I have to change, which prevented me from thinking through all the benefits of progress, and downplaying the natural tendency to think that the sky is falling when something purports to make our lives better through technology.

This resistance did seem pretty easy to overcome though in the case of cryptocurrency – as the benefits of a digital currency, simply from an “ease-of-transaction” point of view, appeared so huge.

As the internet has made us confront the reality that, more than living within a framework of a nation-state system with increasingly permeable national borders, humanity has gone global. Cryptocurrency furthers that trend by allowing us to act like it.

There are many concrete benefits of cryptocurrency that have been beautifully articulated by experts on the subject (i.e. it is fast, it is cheap, governments cannot manipulate it or remove it, and that among other things, you own your own currency accounts). But going beyond these tangible benefits, I believe, is something seemingly opaque, yet equally, if not more important.

That the inevitability of use of this new mode of exchange (and store of value), coupled with the need to develop the global infrastructure and rules of conduct for it, will be a powerful lever that brings us one step closer to the global civilization that, I think, is indispensable to the long-term viability of the human race on Earth.

The inner revolution

This was sent to me by a friend and supporter of Simpol. Thought I’d share it with you all… 🙂


On the surface of the world right now there is

War and violence and things seem dark.

But calmly and quietly, at the same time,

Something else is happening underground.

An inner revolution is taking place

And certain individuals are being called to a higher light.

It is a silent revolution.

From the inside out. From the ground up.

This is a Global operation.

A Spiritual Conspiracy.

There are sleeper cells in every nation on the planet.

You won’t see us on the TV.

You won’t read about us in the newspaper.

You won’t hear about us on the radio.

We don’t seek any glory.

We don’t wear any uniform.

We come in all shapes and sizes, colors and styles.

Most of us work anonymously.

We are quietly working behind the scenes

In every country and culture of the world

Cities big and small, mountains and valleys,

In farms and villages, tribes and remote islands.

You could pass by one of us on the street

And not even notice.

We go undercover.

We remain behind the scenes.

It is of no concern to us who takes the final credit

But simply that the work gets done.

Occasionally we spot each other in the street.

We give a quiet nod and continue on our way.

During the day many of us pretend we have normal jobs

But behind the false storefront at night

Is where the real work takes place.

Some call us the Conscious Army.

We are slowly creating a new world

With the power of our minds and hearts.

We follow, with passion and joy

Our orders come from the Central Spiritual Intelligence.

We are dropping soft, secret love bombs when no one is looking

Poems ~ Hugs ~ Music ~ Photography ~ Movies ~ Kind words ~

Smiles ~ Meditation and prayer ~ Dance ~ Social activism ~ Websites

Blogs ~ Random acts of kindness…

We each express ourselves in our own unique ways

With our own unique gifts and talents.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

That is the motto that fills our hearts.

We know it is the only way real transformation takes place.

We know that quietly and humbly we have the

Power of all the oceans combined.

Our work is slow and meticulous

Like the formation of mountains.

It is not even visible at first glance.

And yet with it entire tectonic plates

Shall be moved in the centuries to come.

Love is the new religion of the 21st century.

You don’t have to be a highly educated person

Or have any exceptional knowledge to understand it.

It comes from the intelligence of the heart

Embedded in the timeless evolutionary pulse of all human beings.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Nobody else can do it for you.

We are now recruiting.

Perhaps you will join us

Or already have.

All are welcome.

The door is open

Inaction of Syria=Inaction on Climate

Rob Hickey, SIMPOL Blogger and Supporter (this is a cross-post with Rob Hickey’s blog over at Spaceship Earth)

I have traditionally prided myself on being able to sniff out what I think are ludicrous conspiracy theories, and to scoff at them condescendingly. This has routinely been undertaken with a degree of smugness spreading across my face that would make even the most docile pacifist want to shatter the bridge of my nose with a tack hammer.

But I am beginning to believe that, like the most crazed of tin-foil-hatted-moon-landing deniers, I am starting to see connections between things that are, at best, tenuously related. As perception is reality to some degree, I continue.

The problem, Dear Reader, is that I see the implications of current events on climate change lurking forebodingly around every corner.

It’s pretty much old hat by now to everyone that the United Nations Security Council has been unable to pass a resolution legalizing a military intervention in Syria (which is needed under Article 42 of the United Nations Charter for the use of force to be internationally lawful). Russia and China are to thank for that bit of “non-interventionist” statesmanship, although a good number of us might suspect ‘realpolitiking’ as the elephant in the room. Self-defense is also considered a lawful use of force under (Article 51 of the UN Charter), but since this is a civil war, a Security Council Resolution would appear the only way to do this in accordance with codified international law.

Despite this, there is a Responsibility to Protect initiative of the United National established in 2005 which proposes that:

  1. A state has a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war      crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.
  2. The international community has a responsibility to assist the state to fulfill its primary responsibility.
  3. If the state manifestly fails to protect its citizens from the four above mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions. Military intervention is considered the last resort.

While not law per se, Wikipedia calls this an “emerging intended norm” which some legal commentators claim can serve as the basis for action outside the bounds of the UN – presumably many of those commentators work for the U.S. government.

And yes, I used Wikipedia as a source. College professors everywhere (none of whom are likely reading this), eat your hearts out.

A piece in the Tehran Times claims that the U.S. has bent and twisted this norm into what it calls, the Right to Bomb principle. Some interpretations of the Responsibility to Protect initiative take the position that when a consensus cannot be reached at the UN that a “coalition of willing” can be deployed. A fine line needs to be walked here of course, as it clearly undermines the UN’s mandate on the use of force under international law, bringing the need for international consensus into question.

Obama has made his position on the UN clear by saying “I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold [Syrian President Bashar] Assad accountable.”

While the indiscriminate use of chemical weapons in Syria on innocents seems insufficient to trigger an organized consensual international response, my figurative hyperopia (which means farsighted – I, for sure, had to look that up) makes me feel kind of bad in saying what I am about to say. I feel that I am belittling the gravity of the present and to a certain degree overemphasizing the importance of some distant future.

The only way that I feel even somewhat content with what I am about to say is that, as a student of history – regardless that it is probably hovering at the elementary school level – short-sightedness and the human mind are somewhat brothers-in-arms. A couple examples of this include U.S. support of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the late 1980’s (yes, I saw Charlie Wilson’s War) and the Western backed coup overthrowing Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, both have which have significant ramifications to this day (Argo was a solid flick as well).  I am, in my own mind at least, an inconsequential counter-weight to that oh-so-noble human tradition of thinking at arm’s length.

So here goes.

If the images of dead children do not trigger a credible international response, how can we hope for international consensus in dealing with climate change?

Eck. Even though I did preface that somewhat, I still feel kind of gross saying that.

If videos of hundreds of children dead children cannot produce a concerted international response, what effect can a hockey-stick shaped graph illuminating future global average temperatures and CO2 levels have on parties with vastly different and irreconcilable views?

Call me crazy, and you wouldn’t be the first, but why is it that the UN Security Council, with historical and present animosities between its members, the ones responsible for deciding when UN law has been transgressed and what actions should be taken to redress them? Clearly, the foxes have designed the chicken coop. This is admittedly a soft-ball and somewhat ignorant question, and one that I have not-so-cleverly worded rhetorically to make my next point.

To make the UN effective at doing what it exists to do (stopping/preventing crimes against humanity), a politically independent legal body needs to be created to determine when a “red-line” has been crossed and what action needs to be taken to address it. These “red-lines” need to exist as codified written statements. Presumably, many of them already do in the UN Charter. Then there would be no need for Obama, or any other American or foreign president, to make them, or feel bound unilaterally by them. In the words of Henry Kissinger, the U.S. should not be the police of the world, but it can be a last resort in addressing national, regional or global crisis. This is something most Americans – I know because I am one of them – would feel much better about rather than constantly being the first to the scene. Crimes against humanity require humanity, not America alone, to address them.

Unilateral action when the UN balks is a thankless job for the U.S.; a classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.”

I like making questionably useful analogies, so with that in mind…rather than playing every position on the baseball field at once, the U.S. can be the pinch hitter that steps to the plate when the bases are loaded when the world is three runs down in the bottom of the ninth.  Not a great analogy to be sure, but good to get out of my system.

By being a proponent of global governance, some may claim that I am falling into the hands of shadowy ‘smoking-man’ style characters who want One World Government and who want nothing more than to control us all. In some sense, when I see situations like Syria, or CO2 concentrations rising with only superficial actions to address them, I think that we need it.

But like any red-blooded American, I recognize that the slide into tyranny is always possible and that, as such, the right to privacy, association and to bear arms should also be heavily protected.

When national interests are no longer significant factors in making the decisions that need to be made, such as would be the case if an independent ‘red-line’ body as discussed above would potentially deliver, much contention on the degree to which climate change (and other existential or humanitarian crises) can be addressed, dissolve. Admittedly, since nearly all of us have some form of national affiliation and identity, finding such a body would be troubling.

At the risk of sounding hippy-ish, this would, it seems to me, require a shift in human consciousness towards a more world-centric view of each of our places in the human family.

Will Cooler Heads Prevail? The Future of Climate Related Violence

rpb 2

By Rob Hickey, Guest Blogger

Source: Getty Images

Finding relationships between phenomena is human. This attribute of the human mind has had strong survival value in nature and we therefore carry it strongly with us today. In one of its many modern incarnations, it has allowed us to develop hypotheses regarding what might make good (and bad) public policy.

Despite the benefits of this evolutionary gift, an active mind without the application of logical rigor can sometimes lead mentally healthy and logical human beings astray. Over the past 100 years, well-intentioned U.S. policy-makers have developed and implemented policies that have expended immense amounts of public money while simultaneously failing to achieve their aims. Others have resulted in unsettling unintended effects.

The ability to survive in hostile and chaotic environments has bestowed us with the side-effect of occasionally seeing patterns that are not there, and to often simplistically assume that an effect results from a single cause. We attempt to overcome the incorrect and bizarre paths down which this leads us by methodologically analyzing data (i.e. the glory of science) which may link phenomena (or disprove these linkages) and which isolate the object of analysis from the surrounding chaos by controlling or explaining away extraneous information.

Identifying the Linkage

In their paper, Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict, published in the journal Science on August 1st, Solomon Hsiang of Princeton University, and Marshall Burke and Edward Miguel from the University of California, Berkley, aim to do just that. They present a body of evidence which they claim implies a causal relationship between rising temperature and increased interpersonal and intergroup conflict.

Their paper concludes that “for each 1 standard deviation (1σ) change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4% and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14%.” They find that, since inhabited areas are expected to warm by 2-4σ by 2050, anthropogenic climate change could have a critical impact on human conflict. They define this impact as “important” if the authors of the 60 studies that they analyzed state that the “effect is substantive” or if the change in conflict risk is greater than 10% for each standard deviation change in climate variation.

The Signal and the Noise

The paper has its detractors, such as Dr. Halvard Buhaug from the Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway who has criticized the study and pointed out that not one case of real-world conflict was identified that would not have occurred without climate change. This criticism is important and does illustrate the complexity and care which must be taken in attributing one particular cause to a particular effect, especially in a system as complex and seemingly un-dissectible as human society. In the interests of full disclosure, it is relevant to note that Dr. Buhaug’s previous academic work refutes linkages between climate variability and armed conflict.

But, this is also is something of a straw man line of reasoning, as it implies that the authors of the study are claiming that climate change alone can cause conflict, rather than exacerbate existing tensions. The authors never make this claim, but they do anticipate this potential interpretation of their work by writing:

We do not conclude that climate is the sole – or even primary – driving force in conflict, but we do find that when large climate variations occur, they can have substantial effects on the incidence of conflict across a variety of contexts.”

One of the main points of contention around the web seems to be that the study does not properly control for other societal variables which affect violence.

The authors attempt to address this difficulty by saying that a:

problem occurs when researchers control for variables that are themselves affected by climate variation, causing either (i) the signal in the climate variable of interest to be inappropriately absorbed by the “control” variable, or (ii) the estimate to be biased because populations differ in unobserved ways that become artificially correlated with climate when the “control” variable is included.”

So, the study intentionally does not include control variables, as they may themselves be proxies for climate change and may erase some (or all) of the relationship between temperature and violence if included. Instead of trying to account for societal differences, the studies that were examined are only those which compare one society to itself during different intervals of time. While some differences may exist, this approach endeavors to minimize most of them.

Is this solution good enough to separate the temperature signal from the socioeconomic noise?

Is Violence Increasing?

The findings of the study make intuitive sense given the notion that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. It seems clear that the earth is warming and violence around the world is on the rise.


When it comes to violence being on the rise – not really. In addition to the fact that we are terrible at assessing risk and macro-trends given our propensity to rely on anecdotal evidence, we also have the ability to accurately understand and interpret data.

This includes Harvard Psychologist Stephen Pinker, who in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, makes the case that violence is actually decreasing around the world.

To make use of one particular case from the U.S., it appears that gun violence and homicides dropped sharply between 1993 and 2011, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data. During this same period, 17 out of 19 years showed higher than average temperatures (from 1901-2012) in the contiguous 48 U.S. states:

rob 3CREDIT: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

What is going on here?

Frankly, this one case from the U.S. does not necessarily run contrary to the finding of causal linkages between warming and violence. Beyond it being a sample size of one, a number of important contravening factors could be at play here that may result in a decline.

The Pew Research Data presents some of these, including the collapse of the crack cocaine market in the early 1990’s and increasing economic growth, which created employment for those who might otherwise have turned to lives of violent crime.

It appears then, that examining a single geographic location over time does not always control for other societal drivers or dampeners of violence enough to draw such conclusions, especially over relatively short time scales. Even within countries, various sub-national geographical divisions may exhibit wildly different conditions that may allow for the development of violence.

This may, for example, be particularly true between different jurisdictions in highly federalized countries such as Germany or the United States where legislation and socio-economic health may differ substantially. In this context, the location of the violence within the country becomes highly relevant. The more geographcally consistent the time-series data is, the better it will be. Unfortunately, for some of the data used, violence statistics are aggregated at the national level and in some cases, the national studies have periods as short as 20 years.

But maybe a large enough sample size (60 studies were used) and time duration (in one case this span was 12,000 years – from 10050 BCE–1950) might be able to overcome differences in economic health, legislation and other factors which change the dynamics a particular areas over time – that the noise is self-cancelling. This is an assumption that this study’s authors make.

Pinker’s book on the decline in violence provides some clues on how, in a world that is scientifically proven to be warming from human activity, and where rising temperature appears to result in rising violence, that overall bloodshed might decrease. These include the rise of the nation-state (which holds a monopoly on force and punishment), increasing commerce, an increased respect for women’s rights, increasing exposure to other cultures and viewpoints, and the increasing use of reason being applied to potentially explosive situations. These ‘calming’ influences are all given as potential pathways that may allow for the expression of our nobler virtues.

What Might The Link Look Like?

Arguments against a linear relationship between temperature and assault have been made, based on a finding that at high temperatures, assault actually decreases. Without taking into consideration the time of day when assault occurs, it appears that in Minneapolis (where the data on which this study is based is from), assaults decline at temperatures above 74˚F:

rob 1Credit: Bushman et. al. (2005)

If true, this brings the connection between anthropogenic climate change and increasing assaults at higher temperatures, into question. Other studies however, such as Bushman et. al. (2005) found that the time of day is also highly relevant for the incidence of assault and shows linearity in the data when taking this into consideration. This appears to refute the claim that extremely high temperatures actually discourage assaults. When controlling for the time of day, the temperature/aggravated assaults curve appears quite different from the above:

Rob 4Credit: Bushman et. al. (2005)

According to the Bushman paper, one postulation as to why aggravated assaults dropped during the hottest part of the day, when there is a proven relationship between temperature and violence, is because “there are strong inhibitions against committing aggressive acts at work, church, or school” despite the heat. The potential role that institutions might play (the effects of sunlight or circadian rhythms could also be considered here) in mitigating violence also appear to resonate with Pinker’s work.

Over the Precipice of Civility

Getting back to the original study, the Hsiang et. al. (2013) paper on violence and climate suggests possible mechanisms under which climate change might increase the incidence of violence. Interestingly, these overlap significantly with Pinker’s pacifying forces in that rising temperature and climate change may erode them.

These include the relative allure of conflict over economic activity, when productivity declines, or crumbling state power resulting from falls in tax revenue and law enforcement capabilities. Warming may also exacerbate social inequalities and violent attempts by the poor to redistribute wealth (a potentially ironic comic-tragedy of free-market ideologies which ignore the environment). It is also likely to increase food-related price shocks and the violence that they cause.

Increased violence may also be attributable to the migratory pressures of climate change on refugee populations and a lack of the bare necessities to sustain them. Finally, as anyone who has sat in traffic in a hot car might attest to, there appears be a mechanism whereby hot weather increases aggressive tendencies and reduces rational thinking. Whether it is a change in heat that triggers this, or higher constant heat is somewhat irrelevant, as temperature is tending upwards and will exacerbate both.

So, while violence may decrease overall in keeping with recent trends, warming may decrease the rate at which it has been dropping and could remain somewhat ‘hidden’ from policy debates. One of the unnerving aspects of this is that warming can potentially reverse the stabilizing effects of the institutions of the nation-state and the economic opportunity that a stable climate provides. Countering the degradation of the forces which promote this downward trend in conflict may be an insurmountable task for individual nations to address.


International Organized Crime: Capitalism at Its Finest?

Misha Glenny’s ‘McMafia’, left me confused, uncertain, self-reflective and, I think, better off than it found me. Shattering preconceived notions and world-views in light of new information, while sometimes discomforting is, I think, a large part of what drives forward human society. While any one person’s world-view may only be able to stretch and bend within certain limits, over time and between lifetimes, quite dramatic shifts in views about the natural and (a subset of it, the social world) emerge. But that’s another post.

Strangely, despite the brutality portrayed in the intertwining threads that the book weaved together, I became impressed by the efficiency and organization of global criminal networks. In the same way that one might study medieval torture techniques with a sense of both fascination and disgust, I found that they are, it seems to me, the purist form of capitalism in existence. This was difficult for me to accept at first as I am a firm believer in the efficiency of the free-market as an economic system compared to any other system yet deployed. There are certainly winners and losers, those who the markets have failed, this cannot be argued (and often this is a result of chance rather than personal choices or talents), but its overall delivery of human happiness is, I think, unparalleled in human history.

But it is both the liberalization of the global economy over the past twenty years, in line with the ‘Washington Consensus’, combined with limits to that liberalization in the form of laws against such activities as drug production and use and prostitution, combined with a world with globally fragmented tax and financial regulatory system, which make such internally organized crime not only possible, but inevitable. Therefore, it is the global economic, legal, and financial systems which allow for the emergence of deeply embedded and destructive organized crime, rather than, to put it bluntly ‘bad guys’. In fact, I would argue, many of those involved criminal activities would prefer not to live in constant fear of violence and life-long prison sentences. But, in a world where material opulence can be achieved faster and with higher probability through illicit capitalism than licit capitalism, the choice for those in a position to exploit illicit activity, is obvious.

Glenny makes the case that the War on Drugs and the War on Terror are hopelessly, and almost comically paradoxical, as the War on Drugs drives this market underground where financial flows cannot be traced, and into the hands of terrorist enterprises. With respect to the global economic system, the reduction of regulation in the flow of wealth and goods around the world following the collapse of the Soviet Union has eased the process of the globalization of organized crime. Finally, disparate tax systems in various countries around the world create safe havens for locating capital, in some cases intentionally created to attract wealth to a particular country or region.

I could not agree more with Glenny’s conclusion that the interconnectedness between the economic, legal and financial systems, and the trend towards an increasingly globalized and capitalistic world (a positive one in my view) makes global governance of these systems a precursor to addressing this and, by extension, all global challenges.

By Rob Hickey

Simpol and Jolitics


Just a quickie to say that Simpol has partnered with Jolitics to provide citizens around the world with an online tool for developing global policies. Fun and easy to use, anyone anywhere can join in. Offered as a supplement to Simpol’s formal policy development process, this is a great way for citizens to exchange ideas, develop policies and vote on them. You don’t even need to be a registered Simpol supporter.

So come along and get involved!